Statement on the
Withdrawal of the United States
from the United Nations Human Rights Council
In a joint statement of Tuesday 19 June 2018, United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and United States Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley announced the withdrawal of the United States from its membership in the United Nations Human Rights Council. The Human Rights Council, successor to the UN Commission on Human Rights, which was first chaired in January 1947 by Eleanor Roosevelt, is the world’s pre-eminent forum for monitoring, investigating and reporting on the full range of universal human rights guaranteed in international and national law, including those related directly to the enjoyment of a safe and healthy environment.
The Global Network for the Study of Human Rights and the Environment (GNHRE) — a broad-based network of concerned experts and scholars working for a better human and environmental future — expresses its deep concern and regret at the United States of America’s withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council for the following reasons.
First, the UN Human Rights Council continues to provide an effective check on the power of Governments that may be perpetrating or tolerating human rights violations, and US withdrawal from the Council seems minimally to signal the current Administration’s diminishing commitment to the UN human rights system and to human rights more generally.
Second, while the Council is admittedly far from perfect, greater US engagement in improving its work and strengthening the global commitment to advancing human rights would have more effective, both symbolically and politically.
Third, US withdrawal from the UN Human Rights Council is particularly untimely and troubling because the Council has just taken strides towards recognition of the right to a healthy environment as a universal and fundamental human right within international law.
Fourth, the US withdrawal from the Council is part of a wider pattern of failure to engage with global partners on multiple forms of international progress in relation to human rights and environmental protections, including its previous announcement to withdraw from the Paris Climate Change Agreement, to take effect on 4 November 2020.
This latest withdrawal should be seen for what it is: a negative, retrograde step at a pivotally important moment for a world facing climate emergency, a rising tide of human rights violations and deepening levels of concern for all life on Earth.
Feature image of the HRC in session: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/Pages/Home.aspx